Happening worldwide on September 17th, World Cleanup Day is one of the largest civic movements in which nations unite to reduce trash and mismanaged waste. By 2050, global municipal solid waste is expected to rise by ~70% and reach a massive 3.4 billion metric tons. This doesn’t take into account the other forms of waste that nations generate such as hazardous, industrial non-hazardous, agricultural, medical and oil production wastes.
To help combat the world’s waste problem, here are 10 ways to engage your employees for World Cleanup Day and for your long-term commitment to sustainability.
1. Conduct a Waste Audit
The most efficient way to reduce your waste output is by understanding where your waste comes from. Conduct a company-wide waste audit to identify all the various sources of waste your company produces.
The benefits of a waste audit include:
- Having a better understanding of the effectiveness of your operations
- Identifying areas of improvement as well as potential new revenue streams through waste recycling/upcycling opportunities
- Generating reliable metrics that can be used year after year in benchmarking your company’s performance
- Helping in setting waste reduction targets which in turn cuts down on disposal costs and wasted material, helps preserve resources, and lowers emissions and pollution
- Contributing to certain certifications as well as regulatory compliance and reporting standards.
2. Educate Staff on Sustainable Waste Management Practices
A powerful way to minimize your company’s waste impact is by educating staff on sustainable waste management practices. These include both the pre- and post-generation of waste. Here are some key waste practices and initiatives to implement in the workplace right away:
- Encourage “mindful consuming”, meaning, be aware of the consequences of your purchases. Some waste is preventable simply by what we buy. Can your company opt for more eco-friendly products that result in less waste at end-of-life? Can you choose durable products designed to last long-term rather than cheaper, throw-away items?
- Launch an upcycle station for storing old or excess office supplies and equipment that someone else could use.
- If space allows, consider installing a compost bin onsite for collecting food scraps and other organic waste.
- Go paperless by switching to digital files and invoices.
- Enforce a strict “No Littering” policy and install trash and recycling bins and cigarette receptacles at conveniently accessible locations.
- Educate staff on what can and cannot be recycled, and how to properly sort various types of office wastes (glass; metal; paper & cardboard; electronic waste; paints, cleaners and other chemicals)
- Never dump harsh chemicals down the drain or flush inappropriate sanitary and feminine products.
- Buy supplies in bulk to reduce packaging.
- Turn off lights and water fixtures when not in use (Remember: Waste includes wasted resources, not just trash!)
3. Set Target Waste Reduction Goals
Now that you have identified your sources of waste and are armed with sustainable waste management practices, set weekly, monthly or quarterly waste reduction goals.
You can help organize department-specific goals or encourage friendly competition to see who can produce the least amount of individual waste. To encourage participation, consider incentivizing your waste management program by rewarding employees with e-gift cards, extended lunch breaks, or experiences they’ll remember forever (i.e. a pottery class, a concert by their favorite artist, etc.)
4. Launch a Green Team to Drive Your Company’s Sustainability Progress
To ensure that your waste reduction efforts stay on track, launch a Green Team to oversee your company’s sustainability progress. Having a dedicated task force towards sustainability helps keep your company accountable and informed, as well as keeps your sustainability efforts continually in motion towards success.
Combining your Green Team’s vision and expertise with a sustainability certification program (such as the one provided by Green Business Bureau) can further fast-track your green mission and goals. A third-party certification program offers additional guidance, clarity and resources to propel your sustainability efforts confidently forward.
5. Switch to Certified Eco-Friendly Products
In cases where you can’t eliminate waste completely, you can opt for greener alternatives that produce less wasteful, non-toxic byproducts. This goes back to the practice of “mindful consuming” mentioned earlier. What are the consequences of your purchases and the products you use?
Update your procurement policy to include more certified eco-friendly products such as those with the Green Seal® label. Green Building Supply has a helpful archive of certified eco-friendly cleaners, paints, and sealers, as well as home goods and interior decor.
6. Reduce Single-Use Plastics
As we all probably know by now, plastic waste is a huge global problem. Help combat the millions of tons of plastic waste that enter landfills, oceans and our own backyards by finding ways to reduce single-use plastics in your business.
This can take the form of switching to reusable cutlery, cups and kitchenware in the breakroom, encouraging staff to bring reusable water bottles and tote bags, and buying supplies in bulk.
You should also work with your supplier to reduce unnecessary plastic packaging and opt for plastic-free packaging alternatives. Check out our articles on eco-friendly boxes and paper packaging and some biodegradable options. We also have a Sustainable Products and Packaging Checklist to help you develop products and product packaging that are more planet-friendly.
7. Incorporate Native Landscaping
Using native plants in your landscaping not only supports biodiversity and the surrounding ecosystems, but plants can also help purify the air and groundwater by absorbing pollutants, leachate and carbon dioxide. Native trees and shrubbery can also aid against heat islands of urbanized areas by providing shade and natural cooling, as well as support soil health and minimize the risk of erosion.
Organizing a “Plant a Tree” event with your staff and community is a great way to celebrate World Cleanup Day.
8. Upgrade to Energy Efficient Equipment
You can’t see it but the appliances and equipment you use at work daily generates emissions and eats up energy elsewhere in the world. Look into making energy efficient upgrades – LED lighting, computers, timers, smart power strips, etc. – to lower your energy consumption and carbon footprint. Renowned leader in certified energy efficient products, ENERGY STAR, provides a wealth of online resources for finding the product you’re looking for.
9. Join a Local Cleanup Event
Joining a local cleanup event allows your company to give back to the community and strengthen its community relationships. It can also grant your employees a sense of purpose and fulfillment in doing good for others and the planet. A passionate, purpose-driven workforce has been seen to build a thriving green culture and participating in community outreach events is the perfect place to rally as a team.
The Ocean Conservancy provides an interactive map for finding coastal cleanups all around the world. You can also view the countries participating in World Cleanup Day and a map of organized cleanups. Can’t find a cleanup event near you? World Cleanup Day allows you to create one and invite others to join!
10. Donate to World Cleanup Day or Other Zero Waste Organization
If you’re unable to actively participate in World Cleanup Day this year, then don’t fret. Consider making a donation to World Cleanup Day or other zero waste organization such as Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Race to Zero Waste, ReFED, Zero Waste USA, and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Every day should be a World Cleanup Day and your company’s sustainability efforts, both short and long-term, combine to make a difference. For further resources on how to achieve better waste management, read our Waste Management Checklist: 26 Tips for Minimizing Waste and 5 Quick Tips to Reduce Your Waste.